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The Three Elements of Maturity

Reb Bradley

​The foundational goal of parenting is to raise children to be mature. The problem in modern America is that most parents assume that maturity is a byproduct of getting older, so few make significant efforts to develop it within their kids. In fact, most couldn't even define maturity, let alone begin to do what it takes to cultivate it. Those parents, who do want to help their kids become mature, confuse maturity with "independence," so grant their immature children autonomy early on in life. They do not realize that an immature person granted their independence does not develop the self-restraint of maturity, but digresses deeper into the self-indulgence of immaturity. They may develop survival skills and increase in sophistication, but they will not grow in maturity. 

Parents must therefore understand maturity and make a conscious effort to train their children to develop it. Based on a study of Proverbs, we see that maturity, broken down to its most basic elements, is characterized by three primary character traits: self-control, wisdom, and responsibility

A self-controlled person has all normal human passions, but is not ruled by them. A self-controlled child is one which is able to obey Mommy the first time when called. It is a self-controlled child that is able to not touch that which belongs to others or not sneak candy when Daddy's back is turned. Such a child may be angered when teased, but will have the self-restraint to not respond with violence. The bottom line is that a child with self-control or self-restraint has the ability to say "no" to himself and choose to do what is right. The child who is allowed to grow up without self-restraint, will reach adulthood, but remain a big "kid" – absorbed with himself, with pleasure, fun, and entertainment, often at the expense of those around him. Whatever he thinks or feels is of supreme importance, so he will say whatever is on his mind, whether appropriate or not, and he will pursue whatever appeals to his passions. His self-centeredness will make him proud, impatient, demanding, and ungrateful. 

A wise person is not the same a smart person whose intelligence is innate. Many brilliant people make foolish choices everyday – their rational thinking skills impaired by their passions and drives. A person who is truly wise is one who learns from mistakes, makes sound decisions, and handles stressful problems with a level head. More importantly, one with wisdom is rational, because passions are not clouding the thinking. For example, when our craving for illicit sexual experiences causes us to pursue gratification without regard to the consequences, we have not acted in wisdom, but in fact, have become quite the fool. When our craving for alcohol is so great that we sneak to hide our booze and lie to cover our actions, we make foolish choices that affect everyone around us. When our compulsion to play the lottery or to buy that new dress causes us to spend money that should be spent on rent, we suffer complications for our unwise choices. The child who is not raised to say "no" to his passions or whims will never walk in the wisdom necessary for maturity. In fact, because that which rules us colors our outlook on life, he and others raised like him will see life through the cloudy eyes of passion, and will view themselves as insightful and wise, when in actuality, they are complete fools because their perspective is skewed by their passions. 

A responsible person is one who accepts personal accountability for his own actions. He does not make excuses or blame others for his failures, and does not expect others to make up for his mistakes. He takes responsibility for himself and pays his own bills in life. A responsible person is faithful and conscientious in work habits. Such integrity and reliability, however, are only possible when passions are not in charge. When a child's desire for fun is greater than his sense of duty, he will compulsively play when it is time to work, and when he grows up he will produce poorly for his employer. When a child is not held responsible to fulfill his personal duties, but is cut slack time and again, he grows up thinking that everyone else is responsible to bail him out. He thinks he shouldn't have to live with the consequences of his actions, and comes to develop a "victim" mentality -- nothing is ever his fault -- someone else is always to blame for his misery. He sees himself as not responsible for his choices or reactions to life. In fact, he insists he has a right to that which he has not earned and is entitled to have equally all that others have worked for. 

So the goal of parenting is to raise children to be mature, having the traits of self-control, wisdom, and responsibility. The young person with those traits will be ready for adulthood when it arrives, and the society whose citizens reflect such character will be blessed as well. Most parents of the last 50 years obviously did not have that as their goal, so their children grew up, and we are now governed by politicians, judges, and civil servants who lead us just as their parents led them. And our nation reaps the same bad fruit of that style of leadership. 

Excerpted from chapter 3 of Conservatives Who Raise Liberal Children

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